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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: January 17, 3:01 PM ET
'Firefly'

By Robin Fleming
XGames.com

The unique and amazing visuals achieved in the skate video "Firefly" has created a huge buzz on skateboarding and tech sites. Filmed with a high-definition video camera mounted to a small remote-control helicopter, "Firefly" is a breath of fresh air.

The video -- depicting a skateboarder cruising the empty streets of Brno at night, with only the lights from the bottom of his board guiding the way -- was created by 29-year-old filmmaker Jan Minol and Czech Republic-based production company Samadhi Productions.

Samadhi Productions has a history in skateboarding, producing a tour video for Nike SB, but "Firefly" was their opportunity to utilize the helicopter.

Minol explained, "It is kind of tricky to understand the flying camera and what is physically possible." So he worked with Czech company Jamcopters for over a year to learn about filming with the chopper and to get his footage in the can.

During the five months of pre-production, Samadhi Productions and the Jamcopter team built their plans. "We had been looking for locations to shoot," Minol said. "Then the storyboards were made. It was kind of an improvisation, but I knew every shot I wanted to do." With all the visualizing and planning, Minol and his crew faced the same limitations of any filmmaker shooting outdoors: the weather. In addition, to get the isolated aerial shots of the city at night the crew had to wait until traffic had cleared.

Further complicating the logistics of the shoot, the skater in the video is none other than the director, Minol, who's been skateboarding for more than 15 years.

Long after the city of Brno had shut down, over 13 nights and with a crew of three, "Firefly" took shape. Minol lays out how it worked: "Me skating, the pilot of the remote-control helicopter and the camera operator operating the camera when it was in the air. It was fun to direct it and skate. Jan Dojcan from Jamcopters is a great pilot, so we didn't have any crashes with the RC helicopter. Everything worked smooth."

In addition to the chopper, the other star of the show is definitely Minol's skateboard. To achieve the glowing blue light, Minol milled a channel into the underside of his skate deck and fitted it with LED lights, thus illuminating the skateboard from below. With the lights laid flush to the surface of the board, Minol says, "you can grind and jump as with normal skateboard."

Director Jan Minol and jamcopter pilot Jan Dojcan on set during a Lamborghini video shoot.

The marriage of the glowing skateboard, the solitary rider and vantage offered by the camera mounted on the RC helicopter made the film look like a video game or a sequence from the movie "Tron."  Normally a skate video relies on a barrage of tricks, quick edits and a soundtrack to set the tone, but the lofty perspective, feeling of freedom and focus on the ride rather than the tricks is just as motivating to want to get out and skate.

The public's response and media attention has been exciting. "People really liked it!" Minol said. "We wanted to make something different and capture the feeling when you cruise a city at night. Finally the video worked out. It went worldwide through Internet, a lot of posting in magazines, and also some French and Belgian TV shows will be broadcasting 'Firefly.' I am really happy for these reactions."

Look out for more innovative footage coming from Samadhi Productions at their website, samadhiproduction.cz.